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Housing in Placer County

Jack Duran

Wood Creek News

April 2017

 

Housing Issues in Placer County

 

One of the reasons so many people choose to live in Placer County is our high standard of living. We are blessed with many amenities that we use and love. We have a strong economy and a fiscally conservative economic outlook that provides the services that residents want and need. We have many options for housing, from suburban to semi-rural to rural to mountain and forest.

However, that strong economy has a downside: affordable housing. While Placer County can boast of many high-paying jobs, there are those who do not make enough money to buy a home. Compounding that are the residents who struggle to even afford a rental in a decent neighborhood. And we have a population who can’t afford housing at all: the homeless.

It was not too long ago that no one really addressed the problem of affordable housing. Unfortunately, ignoring a problem seldom makes it disappear; it invariably will manifest somewhere. We’ve been looking at ways to ameliorate this issue, but as is the case with many of the topics we choose to tackle, we first need to figure out where we are, what the problems are and what are reasonable solutions.

We have seen that affordable housing can be built and the City of Roseville has and continues to have success building affordable housing within the city’s jurisdiction.

In April, staff from the county’s executive office is scheduled to present the Board of Supervisors with an update on the housing situation across the county. We can’t forget that the eastern end of Placer County — Lake Tahoe and the surrounding areas — is tourism driven. The issue of affordable housing in the county’s high country becomes even more critical as many of the resort jobs are relatively low paying and the real estate is, for the most part, high priced.

In our western end of the county, real estate is more reasonably priced, but even that remains out of reach for many. Add that to the fact that rental vacancy rates are in the low single digits and the rental market is about as tight as it gets. 

The county is currently studying the concept of implementing an in-lieu fee for development. It would work as follows: If you build a housing development, you also build affordable and workforce housing or you pay a fee to the county. When the in-lieu fund has grown enough, we then use this fee to build to help prove the needed housing units.

Even though it’s 80 or 90 miles away from my district, I mention Lake Tahoe because the county is legally obligated to develop a county-wide plan for housing. You can’t come up with solutions for one end of the county without doing the same for the other. You can accurately say we have housing issues throughout the county. They may just look a little different, depending on where you’re standing.

At one end, we have high-priced housing that is out of the reach of most families. On the opposite end, we have homelessness. Many of those who don’t have a regular place to stay are in their situation from a set of unfortunate circumstances: loss of employment, foreclosure of a home, loss of a lease, rental increases, break up of a relationship, sickness, substance abuse and myriad other reasons. Whatever the cause, it’s our responsibility as a civilized society to help. I am not advocating for a hand out, but rather a hand up for those who want to better themselves and become a contributing member of the community. I am a strong believer in second chances.

The Auburn Temporary Shelter

 

We have established a temporary homeless shelter in Auburn serving this population until we can build or buy a permanent facility in or near North Auburn. I say in or near Auburn because data shows that shelters run best when near critical services such as mental health and substance abuse programs. There will be some significant developments on this in the coming weeks and I’ll devote a future column to this in the near future.

I also want to call attention to the success we’re having at the Auburn facility for homeless individuals. These people are getting off the streets, getting much needed treatment, getting employment and searching for housing. We are also having success with homeless veterans who have fallen on hard times and we are getting many of them to a better place in their lives.

Placer Rescue Mission Campus 

 

I also want to talk a bit about Placer Rescue Mission’s (PRM) plans for a multi-service center complex, or recuperative care center, contemplated for the Roseville area. PRM is a group of local business and faith leaders and private citizens that are working together to address the area’s homeless issue. First off, I want to dispel the notion that the county is working on a shelter plan in West Placer so we can bring the Auburn homeless to Roseville. Nothing is further from the truth. A study commissioned by Placer County’s Homeless Expert, Dr. Robert Marbut, a nationally recognized expert on the subject matter, revealed that we have three (3) geographically distinct homeless populations:  Lake Tahoe, Auburn and Roseville and as such we need to have facilities in each region to address the local issue.

Second, the facilities being contemplated are not like what many have seen in other cities that create controversy; our facilities are contemplated to be closed, with homeless transported to and from the facility. Selection of homeless to participate will take place at an off-site location where they can be screened for required services and medical needs, or transported out of the county if they are not currently residents, before being taken to the shelter.

PRM’s vision is for a campus style facility that includes transitional housing, food closet, community garden, 20,00 square foot service center where services such as job training, mental health and substance abuse can be provided to the homeless on-site as opposed to travelling off-site for them.

I will continue to work with the cities, the county and the good folks at Placer Rescue Mission and the Gathering Inn to study the idea of siting a multi-service center on county-owned land in the Sunset Area. PRM, the group proposing the campus, is working on a feasibility study to find our if this will work, if it will be close enough to transportation and services, so those who come to the facility stand a better chance of pulling themselves out of homelessness and becoming productive members of our community.

As I’ve said before, I am a realist and I understand that there will always be a portion of this population that absolutely does not want to be helped. We do what we can with these people; what they will allow us to do, but unfortunately that sometimes isn’t enough to get them off the streets.

The problems associated with housing in Placer County don’t have a quick fix. We didn’t get here overnight and we’re not going to solve the problems in short order. However I am pleased that we continue to make progress, to develop ideas and engage the public and the stakeholders in meaningful discussion to find workable solutions. 

As always, it is an honor and a privilege to serve you. I always welcome your feedback and can be reached by email at jduran@placer.ca.gov or by phone at 916-787-8950.

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